Friday, February 1, 2008

Boehner Column/Ask Boehner: Illegal Immigrants Not Eligible for Tax Rebate Checks, Switching from Analog to Digital TV

I occasionally use this column to answer questions from 8th District constituents. You may submit questions to My office is available to help constituents and you will find contact information at the end of this column.

I liked the economic stimulus bill the House passed but now I hear that illegal immigrants will be getting rebate checks just like everyone else. Is this true?

As you noted, the U.S. House of Representatives recently approved an economic growth package intended to infuse resources into our economy and provide small businesses with incentives to expand and create new jobs. This simple plan would provide rebate checks to working families based on their 2007 tax returns and give tax relief to business owners.

Unfortunately, an alarming number of reports have sprung up claiming that the package would enable illegal immigrants to receive a tax rebate. The bill contains no such language enabling illegal immigrants to receive a tax rebate. In fact, illegal immigrants who steal or fabricate a Social Security number are not eligible to receive checks under the House bill. An illegal immigrant who files taxes based on stolen or fraudulent information in an attempt to receive a check under the House bill is committing tax fraud.

I continue to be a strong proponent of enforcing our immigration laws and securing our borders. In a joint-statement I issued with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, we said that will take legislative action to clarify and underscore the language in the growth package that prevents illegal immigrants from receiving any benefits. In fact, the stimulus bill that passed in the House with overwhelming bipartisan support includes language similar to the provisions included in the 2001 and 2003 tax relief bills regarding the prohibition of benefits to those here illegally.

The economic growth package isn’t perfect, but it will quickly get money into the hands of working families while helping small businesses grow and create jobs. Those are two of the most important components for the long-term economic health and security of our nation.

Can you tell me why the government is making a change in how we receive television signals?

On Feb. 18, 2009, over-the-air television broadcasts will become exclusively digital, which could render your old TV and rabbit-ears or rooftop antennae obsolete. As mandated by federal law, local TV stations are moving from the old analog system to digital broadcasting. This will free up much-needed parts of the broadcast spectrum for public safety communications – police and fire departments, and rescue squads.

This switch to digital broadcasting is the most significant development in television technology since shows switched from black-and-white to color. But as with any major change, people will have questions. Foremost on peoples’ minds is whether or not they will have to buy a new TV once this change goes into effect.

If your TV is connected to cable, satellite or a telephone service provider or if your analog TV have a built-in digital tuner, this transition will not affect you. To determine whether your TV has this tuner built in, check your owner’s manual, consult the manufacturer’s website or check your TV set for an input connection labeled “digital input” or “ATSC.” If you bought your TV set before 1998, it most likely will not have a digital tuner. Sets made after 2004 generally come equipped with a digital tuner and by law, all reception devices (TVs, VCRs, DVRs, etc.) sold in the U.S. must have this tuner. However, stores may continue to sell analog-only sets as long they come with a Consumer Alert that the device will need a converter box.

Households with analog television have three options: (1) buy a digital-to-analog converter box to hook up to your analog television set; (2) purchase a digital television or an analog television equipped with a digital tuner; or (3) subscribe to cable, satellite, or telephone company television services, which will likely provide for the conversion of digital signals to their analog customers.

The analog-to-digital converter box program, administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, will provide up to two $40 coupons to requesting households to help pay for the converter boxes, which are expected to cost between $50 and $75 each. The coupons will be issued between January 1, 2008, and March 31, 2009, and must be used within three months after issuance toward the purchase of a stand-alone device used solely for analog-to-digital conversion. Coupons mailed to consumers will list converter box models along with local and online retailers certified to participate in the converter box coupon program.

For more information and to apply for a converter-box coupon, visit the Federal Communications Commission’s digital TV website,, or call 888-225-5322 (TTY: 888-835-5322)

If you are an 8th District resident and have questions about either of these issues – or other issues with the federal government – please contact my office toll-free, 1-800-582-1001.

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